‘Cheap Seats’ a subtle and off-beat offeringPublished 11:00am Friday, June 1, 2012
Regina Spektor’s “What We Saw From The Cheap Seats” is a subtly off-beat album.
Spektor’s seventh album is one that’s hard to turn off, largely because you never know what Spektor will do next.
Despite the largely sparse instrumentation, Spektor adds in grunts, and vocal effects throughout the albums. She expands her vocals beyond words: She sings in accents and makes drum noises over piano parts and clicking drums. Backed by a sparse piano on “Oh Marcello,” Spektor sings lines from The Animals: “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good. Oh lord please don’t let be misunderstood.”
Many times, Spektor walks the fine line between delightfully quirky and odd.
Spektor’s vocal effects are similar to what Tom Waits has done for decades, using his trademark growl of a voice as a rare instrument to blend in with his distinctive drums. Spektor’s voice is more traditionally beautiful than Waits’ and her vocalizations are less definitive in the songs, often catching you by surprise.
While Spektor’s distinctive techniques often define this album, a few moments tend to feel forced and unnatural.
Despite the strange turns, Spektor remains youthful. Spektor sings and whoops over poppy drums and pianos on “Small Town Moon.”
“Don’t Leave Me” continues the youthful quality of the album, as Spektor occasionally borders on sounds that could conceivably be used in children’s music.
But that’s because Spektor is blending the playful with her pop, mixing in horns and bells.
In its quiet moments, the album plays like a creepy lullaby. Songs like “Firewood,” pull the sound back to a base of Spektor’s voice and a piano. The song proves Spektor can weave in poignant lyrics: “Then you’ll miss every toy you ever owned. You’ll want to go back. You’ll wish you were small.”